Dynamic cerebral autoregulation during step-wise increases in blood pressure during anaesthesia: A nonrandomised interventional trial

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2023 Jun 1;40(6):407-417. doi: 10.1097/EJA.0000000000001798. Epub 2023 Feb 6.


Background: Classically, cerebral autoregulation (CA) entails cerebral blood flow (CBF) remaining constant by cerebrovascular tone adapting to fluctuations in mean arterial pressure (MAP) between ∼60 and ∼150 mmHg. However, this is not an on-off mechanism; previous work has suggested that vasomotor tone is proportionally related to CA function. During propofol-based anaesthesia, there is cerebrovascular vasoconstriction, and static CA remains intact. Sevoflurane-based anaesthesia induces cerebral vasodilation and attenuates CA dose-dependently. It is unclear how this translates to dynamic CA across a range of blood pressures in the autoregulatory range.

Objective: The aim of this study was to quantify the effect of step-wise increases in MAP between 60 and 100 mmHg, using phenylephrine, on dynamic CA during propofol- and sevoflurane-based anaesthesia.

Design: A nonrandomised interventional trial.

Setting: Single centre enrolment started on 11 January 2019 and ended on 23 September 2019.

Patients: We studied American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) I/II patients undergoing noncardiothoracic, nonneurosurgical and nonlaparoscopic surgery under general anaesthesia.

Intervention: In this study, cerebrovascular tone was manipulated in the autoregulatory range by increasing MAP step-wise using phenylephrine in patients receiving either propofol- or sevoflurane-based anaesthesia. MAP and mean middle cerebral artery blood velocity (MCA Vmean ) were measured in ASA I and II patients, anaesthetised with either propofol ( n = 26) or sevoflurane ( n = 28), during 10 mmHg step-wise increments of MAP between 60 and 100 mmHg. Static CA was determined by plotting 2-min averaged MCA Vmean versus MAP. Dynamic CA was determined using transfer function analysis and expressed as the phase lead (°) between MAP and MCA Vmean oscillations, created with positive pressure ventilation with a frequency of 6 min -1 .

Main outcomes: The primary outcome of this study was the response of dynamic CA during step-wise increases in MAP during propofol- and sevoflurane-based anaesthesia.

Results: MAP levels achieved per step-wise increments were comparable between anaesthesia regiment (63 ± 3, 72 ± 2, 80 ± 2, 90 ± 2, 100 ± 3 mmHg, and 61 ± 4, 71 ± 2, 80 ± 2, 89 ± 2, 98 ± 4 mmHg for propofol and sevoflurane, respectively). MCA Vmean increased more during step-wise MAP increments for sevoflurane compared to propofol ( P ≤0.001). Dynamic CA improved during propofol (0.73° mmHg -1 , 95% CI 0.51 to 0.95; P ≤ 0.001)) and less pronounced during sevoflurane-based anaesthesia (0.21° mmHg -1 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.42, P = 0.04).

Conclusions: During general anaesthesia, dynamic CA is dependent on MAP, also within the autoregulatory range. This phenomenon was more pronounced during propofol anaesthesia than during sevoflurane.

Trial registration: NCT03816072 ( https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03816072 ).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, General
  • Blood Pressure
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Methyl Ethers*
  • Phenylephrine / pharmacology
  • Propofol* / pharmacology
  • Sevoflurane


  • Sevoflurane
  • Propofol
  • Methyl Ethers
  • Phenylephrine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03816072